Johnny Cash – The Legend and The Man

In this day in 1932 John R. Cash was born in Kingland, Arkansas. In 1954 Cash, and his and his then wife Vivian moved to Memphis, Tennessee. He took time between selling appliances door-to-door and studying to be a radio announcer to audition for Sam Phillips at his Sun Records studios (ground central for the culture shift of mid-Twentieth century American. ) The rest is history.
Later in his career Cash , like many other was seen too old to be worthy of Nashville’s Music City’s attention, never mind his legendary status. These were the days of Garth and Shania. Never mind some old dude with an imposing figure who dresses like a grave digger and sings of old testament doom. No market for that.

Then Rick Rubin helped Cash proved the lie in it. People from all generations still hungered for authenticity. For truth. For dignity and adherence to the roots of music. Rubin and Cash’s American recordings led to a new career high for the Man in Black with millions of albums sold, a GRAMMY win, and a new generation of fans looking for something real.

In 2002 Cash on the “Spirit of Americana” Free Speech Award from the Americana Music Association. In 2003 he snagged AMA Album of the Year for  “American IV: The Man Comes Around” and won Artist of the Year. This transition of country music  legends into Americana icons is a large part of the reason the genre garnered my interest.  The new genre was partly born as a reflex of Music City’s inability to celebrate  it’s history. Attention to history and reverence to the old-guard, and great music, in spite of some marketers prognostication of viability for a fickle mass market, allowed a new home for those not having their phone-calls returned by Nashville.

Cash was a man that understood reverence to musical  history and the crossing of boundaries to capture the beauty and strength of those old songs. When Cash collaborated with Dylan, Kristofferson, Willie, Waylon and Rick Rubin it wasn’t to chase other demographics. It was to confer with like-minded journeymen and follow his heart and make great music. Here’s to those with the courage to be great.Here’s to John R. Cash and his lasting legacy.

2 thoughts on “Johnny Cash – The Legend and The Man

  1. Dave H
    February 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    One of my favorite Johnny Cash moments came during the filming of the VH-1 Storytellers program (I think) featuring Cash and Willie Nelson in the mid- nineties.

    Willie broke a string on his guitar during a song and after a tech had taken it away to restring, Cash handed Willie his own Santa Cruz Dreadnaught to play on the next song.

    Willie took the guitar and did a quick run up and down a scale to get the feel. Johnny then looked at him sheepishly and said “That’s the first time that guitar’s ever been played”.

  2. Hook
    February 26, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Cash is definitely one of the great American (and Americana) treasures. Thank god (and June) for getting him through the rough times, so we had him and his musical legacy for decades more. I believe it was Kingsland, AR where he was born.

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